Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Satloff on Morocco

Via Martin Kramer, I find that WINEP's Robert Satloff has some thoughts from his recent time in Morocco. Not unexpectedly given his political orientation, I have some disagreements with him, such as his thinly supported down-playing of anti-American sentiment in the country. I didn't have much personal experience with this, and many people had pictures of Bill Clinton hanging in shops and such as well as the king, but there was definitely opposition to American foreign policies regarding the Muslim world, which is what the polls are used as evidence for. At the same time, Satloff noticed the same thing I did about Moroccans tending to distance themselves from Middle East and oppose militant Islam, an important point to consider.

What I found bizarre, however, was Satloff's call at the end for the promotion of English education so as to combat Islamist elements in the "war of ideas." It is true very few people spoke English. Knowledge of French, however, was everywhere - it used to be one of the country's official languages. And despite this lack of English, Morocco is easily one of if not the most liberal countries in the Arab world. On the other hand, the Middle East, where knowledge of English is widespread, is where people show an ever higher level of anti-Americanism. (An amusing side note: Morocco's English-language university - al-Akhawayn - is funded by Saudi Arabia.)

Now maybe Satloff does have something to stand on here. It was my impression that French has made deeper inroads into Morocco than English has in Jordan, and while a friend from Oman tells me that English is almost the preferred language in the Gulf, the huge guest worker populations are a complicating factor in assessing cultural influences and I won't feel truly comfortable assessing it all until I've been there. So maybe Satloff feels that the deep French influence has contributed to making Morocco what it is today, and is simply calling for English promotion since the United States is English-speaking and not French speaking. If so, however, it seems odd to leave out a key piece of evidence supporting what he has to say.


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